Lungren, Enemy Of Property Rights

Steven Greenhut: I was driving around some of the rural regions outside Sacramento yesterday and saw the signs for Dan Lungren for Congress. Lungren, the former state attorney general and a failed gubernatorial candidate against Gray Davis, is in a tight race with Elk Grove Democrat Ami Bera. This should be a huge Republican year, but Lungren’s race is considered a toss-up by the well-respected Congressional Quarterly magazine. Bera seems like a garden-variety liberal who is hitting Lungren on his long incumbency and some other predictable issues (not “helping” the district with more big-spending programs).

But it will be hard for me to be upset if Lungren loses. Few California politicians have done more to erode private property rights than Lungren, who has dedicated a good bit of his career to making it easier for the government to take the private property of citizens, due process be damned. Back in 1995, Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois criticized his friend Lungren in his book, “Forfeiting Our Property Rights,” because Lungren authored the re-enactment of civil forfeiture laws that make it extremely easy for law enforcement to take property from people on the slightest pretext. He quotes Lungren bragging that forfeiture is the “lifeblood of law enforcement.” Lungren blamed drug dealers for convincing people that there is something wrong with these often-abused laws.

Few individual politicians have done as much damage to our property rights as Dan Lungren. But his big-government-supporting opponent doesn’t seem interested enough in liberty issues to use that one against Lungren.

OCT. 4

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  1. John Seiler
    John Seiler 4 October, 2010, 18:35

    I hope he loses. As California attorney general, he was vicious about the unconstitutional property seizures of innocent people. He did what he could to stop a needed reform of California asset-forfeiture laws that stopped seizing property without charging someone with a crime. Fortunately, a “strange bedfellows” coalition in the Legislature, led in by conservative Republican Gil Ferguson of Newport Beach and liberal Democrat John Burton of San Francisco, passed a reform bill, and Gov. Wilson signed it into law.

    Unfortunately, the cops still can use the 1984 federal “Lungren Law” that Lungren got through Congress in 1984, and which President Reagan, in one of his worst actions, signed.

    There is an amusing element. By kow-towing to “law enforcement” his whole career, in 1998 Lungren thought they would back him in his bid for governor. But opponent Gray Davis, as Democratic party chairman in Cal. in the early 1990s, had got Democrats on the side of cops by promising higher pensions. And by jettisoning traditional Democratic concern for the civil rights citizens. The cops and prison unions switched sides, and like other unions backed Democrats.

    In office, Davis kept his promises to the cops: Their pensions were goosed. And he signed laws that made it virtually impossible to find out about police-brutality investigations because all the records are sealed.

    Lungren was left in the dust.

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